Libertarians, libertarians, and the Two-Party System

I recommend reading this article from Randy Barnett and the two articles linked in his first paragraph, his WSJ Op-ed, “The Mistake That Is the Libertarian Party” and Nick Gillespie‘s response on reason.com. I also refer to another libertarian view from another article that was sent my way this week. While I’m not responding point-by-point to each of these articles, it’s in response to all of them—and a few others, I’m sure.

I supported Paul a whole lot more than Johnson for precisely the reason Barnett alludes to–there’s a lot better chance of turning the ship of a major political party than starting a new one. I do think, though, that’s a stopgap measure. The next movement will come along or else the party will again start to slide—as it always naturally does. My ultimate goal is a viable third party, though (honestly, I care less that the third party be the LP than that one exist–though naturally, I would tend to choose the one I tend to agree with most). So, while I’ll continue to push for ideas in the major parties to the extent I’m able, I won’t do that to the exclusion of supporting a third party.

Why a Third Party?

In short, gridlock. When does spending go wildest? In my observation, it’s when one party is in control of both the legislative and executive branches. What was the time in recent memory when the budget was most in-balance? When we had a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. There was gridlock, and plenty of it. I remember government shutdowns and long, drawn-out battles. If something was to get done, someone had to bend. To borrow from President Obama, someone has to be “the party of ‘No.'” It’s baked into our very form of goverment—the system of checks & balances is intended to create gridlock, to make it hard to pass a law. The more powerful the parties get, the more the checks & balances are eroded.

Unfortunately, what we see now is a pendulum swing every 2, 4, 8 years (OK, it’s more complex than that, multiple pendulum swings). The balance of power, though, is always in one of two parties.

Now, imagine what happens when a third party is added in to, say, Congress. I’ll use Libertarians as an example (I know, you’re shocked). Let’s break up the plurality this way: 49% Republican, 49% Democratic, 2% Libertarian. When PPACA comes through, Democrats will have to sway either some Republicans or Libertarians. When the Patriot Act comes through, Republicans will have to sway Democrats or Libertarians. It dramatically shifts the power.

Does it solve all the problems? Certainly not. Whenever a political party has power, even the power to be a spoiler, there will be corruption. I do think, though, that it’s a worthy goal to shift the power away from the party headquarters and to the lawmakers and their constituents.

Why Vote?

Frankly, I do not understand the reasoning behind the “my vote doesn’t count, so I just won’t vote” mentality. It’s just like “I’ll take my football and go home” when the game isn’t going your way. So you’re at home, with your football. Congratulations. Everyone else got a different football and they’re playing the game. Except when we’re talking about our government, their game affects you, at home, with your football.

I rather prefer, “my vote doesn’t count, so I’ll find a way to make it count.” My candidate didn’t win, but I’m proud to be part of arguably the strongest LP turnout ever (by raw votes, but not percentages). To me, that’s my vote counting for something. I think, if the Republican Party is willing to look at it (which I doubt, more on that later), they could see Johnson’s performance as a sign that small-l libertarians are increasingly dissatisfied with the party and more willing than ever to look elsewhere.

2012

After posting about how I would vote in 2012, unfortunate wording on an article led me to believe for a few seconds (hey…it was late at night) that Illinois might not be as in-the-tank as I’d assumed (rightly). What that presented me with, though, was the dilemma of how I would vote if I was actually in a swing state.

I think, in this year, I wouldn’t have been able to vote Republican for President even in a swing state. I say “I think” because I’m not sure—I would’ve certainly had a difficult decision to make. Here’s two big reasons I don’t think I could’ve swallowed hard enough to do it.

  1. They chose Mitt Romney, possibly the most chameleon-like candidate I’ve ever seen. He wanted to be President first and decided what he thought about the issues second. I don’t think the American people are that stupid. I detest that type of politics so much, I just don’t know if I could’ve cast a vote for him. Say what you like about Obama, but he at least believes in his agenda.
  2. They shut out Ron Paul supporters at the convention (this video tells the Paul side). Paul, admittedly, didn’t have a shot at the nomination. However, he did have by all reports the most motivated and engaged base. The Republican Party’s response? Change the rules after-the-fact, shut them out, so they don’t create a scene. Is it any wonder Republican turnout was so low? If they don’t want me, why should I vote for their cardboard cutout?

Finally, in the aftermath of the election, I heard a statement from Republican Strategist Mike Murphy (honestly, I don’t know how much influence he has, but this seems in line with what I’m seeing from the GOP) that sickened me, “We’ve got to modernize conservatism in a way that appeals to the demographics of the country we have now.” I have no respect for people who decide who they’re going to be based on who they think some people want them to be, and, from the 2012 results, I don’t think I’m alone.